These days Sasha Lane is waiting for her next big film role but not so long ago the twenty-one-year-old American Honey star was waiting tables at a Mexican restaurant in Texas. After a talent scout told her, “You have a face for movies,” she left the eatery to embark on what she calls “the biggest blessing of my life.”
With acting on her mind she answered an ad looking for people who were “wild, physical, fearless and ready for adventure. No acting experience required.” Her natural charisma impressed British director Andrea Arnold, who cast her in the lead role of a two-hour-and-forty-minute faux cinema vérité road movie that sees her play Star, an eighteen-year-old from a troubled home. Her character’s ticket out of the dysfunction she has grown up with is a travelling band of magazine sellers led by the charismatic Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and Krystal (Riley Keough).
For two months Lane hit the highway, travelling the dusty back roads of the American Midwest shooting a movie that was part scripted, part improvisation.
“We got sides the day before and the day of,” Lane says. “The scenes between Krystal and me were more scripted. This is the word, these are the lines. Some of the scenes where I’m in the van with the kids were more like, ‘I need you to mention that. Get from point ‘a’ to point ‘b.’ Go with it. Fill it out a little bit.”
It was a process of discovery for the first time actress as she learned about her character as the shoot wove its way across country.
“I didn’t know much about my character or much about what was happening,” Lane says, “but Andrea would say to me stuff like, ‘Sasha, you’re representing all the girls who go through this.’
“I was thinking, don’t being scared. You get to do this and in a way it’s what you’ve always wanted to do. I was studying psychology and social work in college. This is an artistic way to do what I wanted to do. I was excited and very much nervous because I had never done it before and people were going to be watching it. I knew it was a movie but it didn’t really hit me until I saw the trailer.”
Life on the shoot was all encompassing—“You’re in this bubble,” she says. “I didn’t have outside thoughts.”—but not always exciting. “There was a lot of sitting in parking lots,” she laughs.
Nonetheless she threw herself at the role.
“I remember when there were times I would go to Andrea and be like, ‘I can’t [bleeping] tell what the difference is between my life in this movie and my real life.’ It was insane.”
All the work paid off—“A Star is born,” raved The Guardian—and she’s now weighing multiple offers. Rumours suggest she’ll either star in Hunting Lila, based on the popular YA books by Sarah Alderson or Shoplifters of the World, a true-life drama about the night The Smiths announced they were calling it quits.
Wherever she lands it’s certain the shoot will be much different from the singular American Honey shoot.
“I just did a short,” she told me in September, “and I was like, ‘Oh, I get to go back home?’ Nothing is like this experience.”